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The Indigo Girls Look Back – The Hollywood Reporter


The Indigo Girls know full well that they’ve been taken as a blow – and it still hurts them. But it’s this lack of cool composure that makes the alt-rock duo so strangely appealing. Amy Ray, the grumpy brunette, and Emily Saliers, the strawberry blonde ocean of emotions, have never been shy to tap into their deepest emotions during their 40-year career playing exaggerated acoustic ballads. And, yes, their vulnerability is their greatest strength as artists and activists, despite the fact that vulnerability is exactly what critics say ( mostly men) believe to have weakened them musically.

For decades in popular culture, the mention of Indigo Girls has become shorthand for criticizing a certain American archetype, heart-broken, agreeable, bleeding, militarily serious , the kind of ’90s social justice fighter in a flannel suit, who is seen as odd or blatantly vilified. like strange. In fact, it was this kind of satire that first introduced me to these musicians even back when I was a kid in the ’90s. And in fact, a TV series. 2015 gently teases their self-esteem-boosting rock music, in which a transgender mother and her exotic daughters sing along to their viral song “Closer to Fine” in one a werewolf’s car on the way to the festival, is what helped me fall in love with them too.

After all, it’s just life

Key point

The rare confessional rockumentary wraps you like a soft blanket.

In intimate and sincere rockumentary After all, it’s just life — unfortunately, a long and meaningless string of words when taken out of the context of the aforementioned original song — filmmaker Alexandria Bombach tenderly persuades Ray and the Saliers to look at the work, politics, and partnerships again. their. Even I, who was usually more drawn to the lord’s irony than innocent sincerity, was immediately drawn into the story of how two strange Georgian girls first met in elementary school. in the 1970s, discovered the alchemical power of their combined songwriting talents and were ultimately inspired. a whole generation of young listeners for introspection. I’m also just a fan of archival footage of rock history and the documentary is a seamlessly edited treasure trove of old photographs, sound recordings, recorded performances, and Video interviews from their younger days. Hair! Their voice!

However, as much as I love a portrait like this one, it’s not entirely biographical and I don’t think Ray and the Saliers will let it be. During face-to-face interviews, you get the feeling that these people are their own biggest critics; Ray especially chastises himself for his history of alienating anger management issues and unsafe public reactions to fired journalists. Ray admits: “Sometimes I feel like I’ve been exaggerating and overreacting. “And there were some silly self-congratulations that made me uncomfortable to look at.”

When they are reflecting on their past feelings, they current frankness remains the documentary’s revolving engine. Viewers can easily observe how they balance each other, not of light and shadow but of rawness and contemplation. Unlike other musicians when asked to define their heritage, the two never appear cryptic or boringly mechanical when contemplating their careers. Instead, they delve into topics like envy and comparison. Indeed, it’s nice to see them honestly rate their original lyrics. Ray, who became the duo’s mouthpiece, decries her song “Blood and Fire” as the kind of sad and self-absorbed genre that one person writes in their early 20s when they’re bored in their lives. university. (Not realizing that’s exactly what makes the song and her visceral delivery in it so brilliantly relatable! I’m not sure I know anyone who didn’t suffer from depression in college.)

Likewise, Saliers, whom Ray even describes as “elusive,” hilariously cringe at the poetic seriousness of her younger days, laughing to herself in admission. wrote pretentious songs about the Lady of Shalott. I mean, really, what artistic girl doesn’t have? She’s painfully humble, deviating when forced to fight for her own power as a musician. The documentary made me consider the downside of career longevity for artists: A debut can plunge you into the shame of the folly of youth because you’ve inadvertently done something wrong. died an unfortunate time in his life.

The film emerges as a deep dive into how the lesbian identities of Ray and the Saliers played a role in their success, drawing countless gay youths to their music for many years. decades before LGBTQ+ acceptance became more widespread and collectivized. I’m sure every music artist in the world has saved at least one life (there must be some guy out there who crawled from the bottom of the abyss because of Limp Bizkit), but it’s pretty clear from After all, it’s just life that the Indigo Girls had in fact invented a small cottage industry that provided even a glimmer of hope to homosexuals in the 1980s and ’90s, who were reaching adulthood when they were infected. trapped in homophobic communities. As many interviewed fans noted, the Indigo Girls’ music was instrumental in their survival.

Ray and the Saliers aren’t afraid to tackle sexism and homophobia that have largely excluded them from the more casual popularity. They admit that they were never a good match for the childish performers of the traditional folk theater, which at first made it difficult for them to find larger audiences. As Ray astutely points out, “They can understand Rage Against the Machine, but they don’t understand the Indigo Girls.” After all, if you really listen to their lyrics, you’ll find them no better than other dedicated lyricists like Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Stevie Nicks or Dolly Parton. They have a pure listening ability. What makes them controversial is their packaging: They’re openly lesbian, openly masc, and openly leftist.

Of course, these signs could have been simpler in the ’90s, when they were at their peak of popularity. Saliers shared that she is sometimes attracted to men sexually and physically, though is still emotionally attracted to women. Ray reveals that she’s on the gender spectrum (and possibly other spectrums as well.) In 2023, will the word “lesbian” be too rigid to describe the group that’s probably considered the most lesbian of all age? Bombach and her subjects didn’t have an answer, but the Indigo Girls weren’t too bothered about these differences anyway. As always, they are embracing the title, which is uncomfortable. Especially the nasty parts of themselves.

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